The FDA sent a warning letter on October 19, 2016 to Simply Fresh Fruit of Vernon, California, informing them that environmental swabs taken in their facility found Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Federal inspectors also discovered violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practices. These findings make the ready to eat fresh cut fruit products adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The FDA issued Form FDA-483 after the inspections.
Three of one hundred environmental swabs in the facility’s high care processing room were positive for Listeria bacteria. Two of those were in locations adjacent to food contact surfaces. They include the panel surface and power switch on the side of a wash bin, and a power knob for a conveyor belt. The other swab was found on a squeegee used to push water into a floor drain.
In addition, finished product was found to be positive for Listeria monocytogenes on March 28, 2016, according to the warning letter. A recall notice posted on US Foods on April 15, 2016 informs its customers about a Listeria monocytogenes recall from Simply Fresh Fruit for fruit salads and cantaloupes.
Whole genome sequencing analysis was conducted on the three Listeria isolates collected, and one Listeria isolate found on cut cantaloupe. This analysis found that the four isolates belong to the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes, indicating that all four of them originated from the same source of contamination.
These findings demonstrate that the facility’s “sanitation efforts are inadequate to effectively control pathogens on your processing equipment and in your facility to prevent contamination of food. Furthermore, L. monocytogenes found in the environment of your facility increases the risk of your finished product becoming contaminated. Once established in a production area, personnel or equipment can facilitate the pathogen’s movement and contamination of food-contact surfaces and finished product. It is essential to identify the areas of the food processing plant where this organism is able to grow and survive, and to take such corrective actions as necessary to eradicate the organism by rendering these areas unable to support the growth and survival of the organism.”
Simply Fresh Fruit responded by saying that the “condition of the dairy tile flooring” was the root cause of the contamination. They implemented more aggressive sanitation procedures and made corrections to the floors.
The violations of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations include: an employee was working on melons with a knife, then used that knife to turn on the conveyor belt. He continued to handle the ready to eat melon chunks without first cleaning or sanitizing the gloves. One employee on a forklift went through standing water to deliver pallets containing pre-washed fruit to the high care receiving area.
The firm failed to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces in wet processing before use. Citrus fruit build-up was observed on the scrub brush washer. Adequate floor drainage was not provided. A large amount of standing water was observed near the scrub brush washer machine which is used to pre-wash and sanitize whole fruit.
Simply Fresh Fruit has 15 working days to respond to the letter, outlining specific corrective steps. There is no information about this issue on the FDA site.